Dogs are often referred to as man’s best friend, and they inspire such devotion that many of us embrace them as family members rather than pets. It’s no surprise, then, that our canny canines have inspired a littler of fantastic songs, allowing us to slip the best songs about dogs off the leash and let them happily run free.
10: The Monkees: Gonna Buy Me A Dog (from ‘The Monkees’, 1966)
The Monkees’ self-titled debut album went quintuple platinum and featured the smash hit Last Train To Clarksville, in addition to (Theme From) The Monkees, which – in truncated form – also provided the theme tune for the band’s much-loved TV show. Infamously, The Monkees’ management initially refused to let the group actually play their instruments, leaving the individual band members to supply lead and backing vocals while the cream of Los Angeles’ session musicians laid down the music under the auspices of producers Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart.
With hindsight, one can only feel for the group, though they give the vocal tracks their all, not least on the closing Gonna Buy Me A Dog: a knockabout paean to the virtues of acquiring a faithful hound after your girl done gone. Mickey Dolenz takes the lead vocal on this entry among the best songs about dogs, with Davey Jones desperately trying to put him off his stroke with a series of surreal, Beatles-esque interjections (“Here, Rover, Fido, Spot!”) which still amuse after repeated plays.
9: Pink Floyd: Seamus (from ‘Meddle’, 1971)
Individual pets have inspired many of the best songs about dogs, but in a few cases the animals themselves also went along for the ride when their owners headed into the studio. In 1968, Seamus, the border collie belonging to The Small Faces’ frontman, Steve Marriott, famously yapped along on the band’s Top 20 hit The Universal, and he later reprised his party piece, howling along to his heart’s content (and actually pretty tunefully) on a light-hearted country-blues tune Pink Floyd recorded in his honour for their sixth album, Meddle.
8: Blur: Essex Dogs (from ‘Blur’, 1997)
Though it features the lyric “Watching dogs somersault through sprinklers on tiny lawns”, Blur’s Essex Dogs is really a paean to urban dogs: young humans written off from an early age, living a hand-to-mouth existence in underfunded provincial towns such as Blur’s hometown of Colchester (a place where “You know you’ll get a kicking tonight/Smell of puke and piss on your stilettos”). There’s no denying the power of this memorably left-field, eight-minute epic which closed out Blur’s self-titled fifth album and presaged the coming of other pioneering British acts such as The Streets and Sleaford Mods.
7: Pretenders: Jealous Dogs (from ‘Pretenders II’, 1981)
Though not as explicit as some of the best Pretenders songs, Jealous Dogs, a highlight from the group’s second album, Pretenders II, still comes very much from a strong feminine perspective. Some of frontwoman Chrissie Hynde’s narrators – such as her dominatrix in Bad Boys Get Spanked or the woman who chastises her boyfriend for being “run of the mill” in Up The Neck – are critical of their male partner or pursuant, but the protagonist of Jealous Dogs reserves her disdain for scheming women on the make, the kind who will “Take your back and leave your shirt/Like that jealous bitch/Always wanting more”. Appropriately, the song’s insistent, edgy backdrop is ideal for the subject matter, as it pursues Hynde’s lyric like an especially malicious dog on the prowl.
6: Kate Bush: Hounds Of Love (from ‘Hounds Of Love’, 1985)
Dogs are portrayed at their most demonic and otherworldly in the thunderous title track from Kate Bush’s astonishing fifth album, Hounds Of Love. The scene is set from the off with a sample of actor Maurice Denham in the 1957 horror film Night Of The Demon (“It’s in the trees! It’s coming!”), while the breathlessly giddy gallop of the song itself features a vivid lyric which compares the feeling of being chased by a pack of hounds to an innate phobia of falling in love. Magnificent on first release, it’s still a transcendent listen among the best songs about dogs.
5: The Pogues: White City (From ‘Peace And Love’, 1989)
One of the best tracks from The Pogues’ fourth album, Peace And Love, White City was a suitably rollicking ode to the West London stadium which, during its post-war heyday, was often regarded as greyhound racing’s premier venue. Shane MacGowan’s suitably rich lyric reflected how betting on the races usually left financially bereft punters going to the dogs (“The torn-up ticket stubs from a hundred thousand mugs/Now washed away with dead dreams in the rain”), yet he still mourned the loss of White City (“Like Atlantis, you just disappeared from view”), which was demolished in 1984 and these days houses a rapidly developing tech and life sciences hub.
4: Neil Young: Old King (from ‘Harvest Moon’, 1992)
“Country songs about dogs” is a subgenre in itself, and it can often produce some truly execrable results. However, the best songs about dogs in this vein can be truly heartbreaking, and that’s certainly the case with Neil Young’s Old King. A perfectly weighted tribute to the Canadian American’s then recently-deceased beagle, the song is a potent, rootsy shuffle embellished by dobro and banjo which eloquently says its piece (“He was the best old hound dog I ever did know”) and then moves on, taking its place among the rest of Young’s Juno Award-winning Harvest Moon album with its dignity happily intact.
3: The Stooges: I Wanna Be Your Dog (from ‘The Stooges’, 1969)
Iggy Pop is anything but too proud to beg on I Wanna Be Your Dog, on which The Stooges’ frontman apparently fantasises about being a submissive hound to the woman of his dreams. A standout track from The Stooges’ debut album, its looming, three-chord riff would go on to shape the future of both heavy metal and punk music, and the song would later lend itself to covers by artists as disparate as Sonic Youth, Slayer and Joan Jett And The Blackhearts.
2: David Bowie: Diamond Dogs (from ‘Diamond Dogs’, 1974)
I Wanna Be Your Dog could well have caused outrage if The Stooges hadn’t initially remained a cult-level act. They were, however, well known – and revered – by no less a mainstream star than David Bowie, and their influence is apparent on Bowie’s eighth studio album, Diamond Dogs.
Effectively Bowie’s farewell to glam rock, the record also flirted with the funk- and soul-inspired music he would pursue on its follow-up, the Young Americans album, but Diamond Dogs’ feral title track brandished a proto-punk sound not dissimilar to The Stooges’ Bowie-produced Raw Power album. Bowie also decided he wanted to be our dog, as he commissioned artist Guy Peellaert to portray him as a half-man, half-dog hybrid on the record’s sleeve: a move which made it a controversial classic among the best David Bowie album covers, forcing his label to airbrush out the genitalia Peellaert had included in his original submission.
1: Led Zeppelin: Black Dog (from ‘Led Zeppelin IV’, 1971)
Bowie may have delivered the diamond-dogs’ bollocks, but the track which leads the pack among the best songs about dogs really is the canine’s testies. Based primarily upon a complex, winding riff devised by bassist John Paul Jones, Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog came together during some especially creative sessions for their untitled fourth album (aka “Led Zeppelin IV”), and the band liked it so much they decided to open the record with it. An elusive, sinewy rocker with a timeless appeal, Black Dog was named after a friendly black Labrador that wandered the grounds at the group’s residential studio, Headley Grange, but the song that modest canine inspired remains one of rock’s mightiest mongrels.
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